What L wanted more than anything (at the time of writing this – in his notebook, in the cinema) was to love the film (Weekend). Secretly (!) he thought he might not, that he might be jealous, as artists sometimes are. Not in a bitter way, but in a way that makes one angry when bad art takes up space in the world. He wasn’t sure what he expected of the film; he’d avoided the reviews, though it was hard to avoid the hype on Facebook. Especially on Facebook. L feared that the story of the film would be better than his story, the book he was writing. He was scared that in some way the film (the writer, director) might have stolen his story, taken the story that he would have loved to have written and made a film out of it. L would admit that he worried that the film might be better than anything he could ever make. He worried that his stories would always be melancholy; no matter how happy some of the moments in them were – there would always be an undercurrent of sadness, even gloom. He has two stories about two men he met recently.
Story #1: They met online. It happened after a long time of a lot of fucking around. He had been on Gaydar for weeks, probably even months, never for more than a few minutes, just to check if someone had messaged him. But recently he’d decided that it was time to connect in a way that was a bit more… what? serious? clothed? than meeting at the sauna or in sex clubs. So he stayed logged on to Gaydar, opened several rooms (North London, Central London, Hairy Men, Men of Colour, and one or two more – maybe Younger for Older). The prophet must have seen him in one of those rooms. From early on he’d called him the prophet, from soon after they met and went for dinner. L hardly ever called him by his name. In the short while that they were together – barely a week 0 he never called him Mohamed. He called him baby and he called him habibi, because they both spoke a bit of Arabic: the prophet from studying the Koran and picking it up from friends; L from a Palestinian lover he’d had during college. The lover was Christian. The prophet was L’s first Muslim… lover? love interest? The prophet liked it that L was Jewish, though he was shocked when L told him he ate pork.
“Are you serious,” the prophet said.
“Why?” L said. “Don’t you?”
“Are you crazy?” the prophet said.
They’d found a halal Turkish restaurant near L’s flat and gone there for dinner the first time they met. The prophet drove to L’s place from North Finchley.
The characters in the film didn’t seem to have much history. Oh, there was the detail of the guy (Russell) who’d been in care, but even that wasn’t really believable. Is it possible for someone to grow up in care and not have any abandonment issues?! His reaction to the news that the man he is falling in love with is about to leave for America and probably never come back is much more in keeping with the emotional stuntedness of men I know who’ve been to boarding school. And they didn’t seem like the kind of guys who’d take that amount of drugs. On the whole, drugs do not make interesting cinema or people. For depth, for history… better to watch something like Homme au Bain, or the brilliant My Last Ten Hours With You. Or the genius Taxi Zum Klo.
Story #2: They met at a party, a friend’s leaving do. L hadn’t wanted to go. He’d been working like mad for the past month – teaching, covering for people who’d been ill, or (in one case) gone back home to give stem cells to their brother who had cancer. L needed a Sunday to himself. But he went. The friend was an ex. The ex was in the kitchen when L arrived. The guests who’d already arrived – there were about 10 or 12 of them – were in the living room next to the kitchen. The kitchen was small and cosy and looked out onto the garden, but it was night and there was only blackness beyond the kitchen window. His ex was making a curry stew with potatoes and chickpeas and beetroot. L preferred being in the kitchen, especially at parties where he didn’t know people, and at this party (last weekend), besides the host, his ex, he knew no one. All the men looked the same. Most of them were of average height, most of them had beards, and most of them were chubby. L used to have a beard, but he’d shaved it off about six months ago (he has not missed his beard for one minute, though he does miss having a way to hide his disappearing jaw-line; he is becoming jowly).
The men at the party were taunting him with the way they looked, what he feared of becoming: chubby and jowly and average. So L clung to the host – they stroked each other and hugged (they almost kissed) – and he focused on the curry. He volunteered to be in charge of the rice. L and the host had been boyfriends for a while many years ago, more years than L had thought, because later, when the dancer had asked him, L had said that he and the ex had been together about 4 or 5 years ago, when in fact it was more like 7 or 8. By then the ex was mingling with his guests (there must have been close to 20) and L was in the kitchen with the dancer, chatting. He was part Algerian, Jewish, and the other half was German. They were both foreigners in London and they talked about that.
The film ends where it begins (in a way that a satisfying short film might do, and he wonders if Weekend might have worked better as a short film. Fifteen minutes. Max.) Okay, so he goes to the train station… that was a nice scene, as was the moment with the two of them in bed role-playing a coming-out scene to the guy’ s father. It was cute. It didn’t feel meaningful. Not much in the film felt meaningful, consequential. Not even consequential in a quiet way. At the moment when he said he was going away, he thought: Now the film’s going to get interesting. It happened just at the point when he started to get really bored, just when he’d turned to a friend who was sitting behind him and said to her that she was right, that her fear that it was going to be a film about vacuous Shoreditch types had come to pass.. but then the film didn’t go anywhere interesting, it stayed on the same emotional register, bordering on numbness. (He blame the script.) So he kisses him at the train station. So what? By then, who cares? He wonders (not in a serious way) if he’s cynical, but he knows he isn’t. He’s a romantic.
He thinks how there was no sense of otherness in the film.
L and the dancer made a date for the following weekend.
L and the prophet went dancing at a club in north London where they played bhangra and Bollywood music. For the first half an hour they had the dancefloor to themselves. The prophet needed some persuading, but in the end he danced – just the two of them.
[to be continued]